Andrew Stiles visits Iran on “A Free Beacon journey to the birthplace of Valerie Jarrett.” In 1982, P.J. O’Rourke filed his classic travelogue in which he accompanied a group of wealthy Nation magazine limousine leftists on a river cruise up the Volga. O’Rourke summed up those pathetic losers perfectly in a sentence:
“These were people who believed everything about the Soviet Union was perfect, but they were bringing their own toilet paper.”
Stiles is off on a similar jaunt with equally awful American leftists in search of the 21st century equivalent of the Soviet Union and/or an exotic paradise of income and sexual equality:
This particular Persian excursion, after all, is sponsored by none other than the New York Times, the esteemed paper of record that, in case you hadn’t noticed, is quickly transforming itself into a travel agency of some renown, offering an array of exhilarating (and expensive) cultural journeys for the sophisticated traveller.Looking for a “people to people experience” in communist Cuba? The Times has you covered. Eager to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Ditto. Keen to “retrace the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest explorers” in Antarctica? There’s a trip for that. It’s not clear whose footsteps you’ll be retracing aboard the “297-foot luxury expedition yacht” the Times has commissioned, but why quibble? Rates start at $15,695. Carlos Slim must be loving this.
No Times Journey, as they’re called, is as popular as “Tales from Persia.” Ours is the inaugural voyage, but there’s been so much interest that they’ve already had to increase the number of offerings this year from three to five, all of which are sold out. At the end of the day, no one—not even the ayatollah—is going to f—k with the Times. That’s what you’re counting on, anyway. Although the Gray Lady has certainly gone to great lengths to ensure her release from liability:
Without limitation, we are not responsible for any injury, loss, or damage to personal property, death, delay or inconvenience in connection with the provision of any goods or services occasioned by or resulting from, but not limited to, acts of God, acts of government, weather, force majeure, acts of war or civil unrest, insurrection or revolt, strikes or other labor activities, criminal or terrorist activities or the threat thereof…
But even if it comes to that—getting yanked into a windowless room upon arrival at Imam Khomeini International Airport—you’ve settled on a failsafe strategy: blame everything on the Jews. Before you know it, your Qatar Airways flight to Tehran (connecting through Doha, site of the 2022 World Cup final) is preparing for takeoff. There’s a large compass displayed on a big screen at the front of the cabin. One arrow points towards Mecca, the holiest of Muslim holy sites, and another (for some reason) towards Gaithersburg, Md.
Fortunately, unlike the ayatollah and the average New York Times reader, the Iranians themselves are pretty cool about Americans — and even more curious about them than the average Times subscriber:
Americans in Iran are generally regarded with a degree of skepticism, but not for the reason you might think. Iranians want to know what you’re doing in Iran, not because they suspect you of plotting a coup, but because they know American passport holders could spend their vacations anywhere else on earth (give or take a few tin-pot communist police states), and feel sorry for you. They are almost always friendly and eager to tell you there are no hard feelings. “Ninety percent of Iranians love America,” is a widely cited statistic, though it’s not clear if this is based on actual data. Eventually, this becomes rather eerie, as if everyone is reading off the same approved script.
Nazri, a student studying computer animation, offered the boldest riff on the “We love America” line, leaning in close to whisper “and Israel,” though I am not convinced this is a 90-10 issue. Moments later, a mullah in a black turban strolled by and leered in our direction. “Very dangerous,” Nazri said after he passed. “I f—king hate them.” Also, can I get him a job in California?
Time to up your game California — we’ve at last found a region of the world with less freedom than San Francisco.
Found via Moe Lane, who adds, “It’s a strange, confusing dictatorship that they have over there, but it’s very real.”
Iran, that is.